© Commonwealth of Australia, Department of Defence
Royal Australian Air Force thanks the Northern Territory
Report by Jaryd Stock
Images: RAAF, Les Neistat, Ryan Imeson, William Nguyen Phuoc and Jaryd Stock
August 15, 2018
Thousands of people from the general public to aviation enthusiasts from all parts of the country and even overseas flooded through the RAAF Base Darwin gates to get up close and personal to the Australian and international aircraft and vehicles on display at the 2018 Pitch Black Open Day.
Families and military aircraft fans enjoyed the free community event and a rare opportunity to meet the crews and personnel who fly, operate and maintain these machines.
“It’s our way of saying thank you to the Northern Territory community for their ongoing support during Exercise Pitch Black,” said Air Commodore Noddy Sawade, RAAF Director Air Shows.
“The Open Day provides an opportunity to show our appreciation and a great chance for the public to learn about what we do during the training exercise,” said AIRCDRE Sawade. “It’s great to showcase aircraft and people to our visitors, the Northern Territory really is a beautiful part of Australia and we feel proud to be part of the community.”
This year’s Open Day showcased aircraft from many of the participating nations including the Indian Air Force with their Sokhoi Su-30MKI from 102 Squadron, the United States Marine Corps MV-22B Ospreys from VMM-268 ‘Red Dragons’ and the French Air Force Rafale B.
French Air Force Fighter Pilot, Major Kirk, said it’s always interesting at exercises like this to come together with our international friends. “We cooperate on operations so it’s important to share information on each other’s processes and procedures, exercises like Pitch Black gives us the chance to do that.”
“It’s always a pleasure to meet the people of other countries and talk about our country, our aircraft, our Air Force.”
Several aircraft that were stationed at RAAF Base Tindal also flew up to Darwin for the open day with USMC F/A-18D Hornet from VMFA-242 ‘Bats’, an E-7A Wedgetail from RAAF No.2 Squadron, and a Royal Canadian Air Force KCC-130H Hercules from 435 Squadron partaking in the showcase of military aircraft on the apron.
All Squadrons that were present on the day also brought along Squadron merchandise such as patches, challenge coins and shirts for sale to the public, it was noted that you could’ve had $1,000 dollars to spend and it still wouldn’t have got you anywhere near close to buying all the merchandise available at the event.
The Pitch Black Open Day also featured military working dog displays, Air Force band performances, interactive exhibits and activities.
Video: Cameron Reynolds
Military Working Dog Handler, Aircraftwoman (ACW) Mikaela Sim and her dog Olly, wowed the crowds with a muzzle attack demonstration.
“We really love getting out amongst the Darwin community and showing them what we do every day.”
“It’s great for us to have the chance to show people what our dogs are capable of in the protection of our aircraft and air bases,” said ACW Sim.
“The puppies are particularly popular and really enjoy the attention.”
People in the Northern Territory also were given an opportunity to wander the austere airbase set up at Batchelor South of Darwin also as part of Exercise Pitch Black 2018 series of open days.
There were many different displays from the RAAF the Australian Army and the United States Air Force for kids and adults alike to look at, touch and ask questions about.
Land-based equipment like Bushmaster Protected Mobility Vehicles, fire trucks and a range of other vehicles were popular with people getting in them and on them, while quizzing the Air Force members who were always ready to provide answers.
Many attendees were amazed by the healthcare facilities on the airbase. The Role 2 field hospital and ambulance showed a defence capability that the general public didn’t expect to see.
Two of the major draw cards for all at the Batchelor Open Day were the ARH Tiger helicopter and a C-27J Spartan that made multiple low passes of the airfield to cap off the event.
Also as a part of the Open Day a number of senior officers from international militaries came to Batchelor to see the facilities on hand at Air Force’s austere airbase build.
These open days were supplemented by a great flying display that started the Pitch Black interaction with the public with a free flying display over Mindil Beach in Darwin on Thursday the 2nd of August.
With flying scheduled for the Thursday afternoon, all aircraft taking part in those sorties were to make a flypast of Mindil beach. Aircraft that took part were Indonesian TNI-AU F-16’s that flew alongside their Australian counterparts from No. 77 Squadron flying F/ A-18A Hornets and also No. 6 Squadron flying their EA-18G Growler.
Other aircraft to partake were two MV-22B Osprey’s from the USMC’s VMM-268, with one putting on a demonstration for the crowds flocking to the beach.
A great formation of the Indian Air Force Sukhoi’s Su-30MKI and the RAAF F/A-18F Super Hornet also was a crowd-pleaser, as the Flanker showed its size comparison to the Super Hornet it highlighted to the Mindil Beach crowd in fact how big this fighter jet really is.
The Republic of Singapore Airforce also participated in the flyover with their KC-135R Stratotanker partaking in the exercise from 112 Squadron.
The flying display was capped off with a full flight demonstration of the RAAF F/A-18A Hornet from 77 Squadron.